A Good Night's Sleep to Fend Off Pain

Poor sleep and anxiety were predictors of widespread pain in older adults

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Persistent pain that affects multiple parts of the body can be common among older adults. And for some, sleep habits may play a role in this widespread pain.

In a recent study, older adults were asked to evaluate their pain levels and report on lifestyle factors like anxiety symptoms and health-related quality of life. Three years later, researchers followed up with the participants to see if anyone had developed widespread pain.

These researchers found that older adults who did not get restorative sleep most nights were most likely to report new widespread pain.

Anxiety and abnormal body mass index (a measure of weight to height) were also predictors of new onset chronic pain.

"Tell your doctor if you have chronic pain."

John McBeth, PhD, of the Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Center at Keele University, led this study.

According to Dr. McBeth and colleagues, one in four men and women who are over 65 years old visit a doctor due to widespread pain, which affects multiple areas of the body, every 12 months.

The pain may stem from a number of different causes, including physical trauma, obesity and osteoarthritis.

This study attempted to identify predictors of widespread pain in older adults.

Dr. McBeth and team recruited 4,326 older adults to participate in this study. Of these adults, 1,562 reported no pain at the beginning of the study, while 2,764 had some pain.

The participants completed a questionnaire that provided information on age, sex, pain, anxiety, depression, sleep and other health factors. Three years later, the participants completed a follow-up questionnaire asking the same questions.

A total of 800 (18.5 percent) of the participants reported new onset widespread pain. The rest of the participants were free of widespread pain.

Of the participants who reported some pain at the beginning of the study, 24.6 percent reported new pain at the follow-up.

The researchers found that people who did not sleep well, or who had "non-restorative" sleep most nights, were significantly more likely to report new widespread pain.

Additionally, new onset widespread pain was most common among participants who did not have a normal body mass index (BMI), experienced financial problems and had restricted social participation.

The participants who reported anxiety and had a poor physical health-related quality of life were also more likely to report widespread pain at follow-up.

The researchers concluded that widespread pain was common in older adults, especially those who did not sleep well.

They recommended combined interventions for widespread pain treatment to address multiple predictors of pain, such as anxiety and sleep habits.

This study was published in Arthritis & Rheumatism on February 13.

The research was funded by the Medical Research Council and other health organizations. The researchers declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 11, 2014
Last Updated:
February 13, 2014